The Missing American by Julie Highmore is the first in a series. It features the somewhat flawed, Oxford-based private investigator, Edie Fox, a single mother and very young grandmother who inadvertently gets her precious family caught up in her first big case.
This is a detective story set in Oxford. Of course, we have met one of those before, in the series featuring Inspector Morse. I can this becoming just as successful despite the lack of crossword puzzles and draught pints of beer. Oxford is a city the author knows well, and she has written her own Oxford, and placed her protagonist in the more edgy and diverse east of the city, full of Victorian houses, students, cafes, delis, and retired lecturers, rather than the colleges and cloisters of Oxford University. Julie Highmore creates her own unique world, and her own voice, and both are compelling.
New to the private investigator game, Edie Fox is delighted when a handsome American client with disconcertingly dazzling teeth asks her to find his missing cousin Isabella, especially when he leaves her a bundle of cash to get started. However, the case quickly gets complicated, and so does her life when a one-night stand from her Oxford university days gets in touch and asks if her 26-year-old-daughter, Maeve, is also his child. Juggling a chaotic home, a brimming wine glass, a daughter besotted with her new-found daddy, and a rekindled old flame, Edie must try to focus on the job. But with unreliable witnesses, a less than trustworthy client, and an assistant with her mind on other things, Edie will be up against it and risks losing all.
It starts off with a client appearing at Edie’s office, an American who looks as if he might be about to ask if Edie is ready to accept Jesus into her life. He inquires in a polite manner, ‘I’m here to see Eddie Fucks?’ Edie stands and inches round her desk. ‘That’s me. Not Eddie though. It’s Edie Fox.’ That’s how it starts and it goes on from there. There is a lovely deadpan humour, usually more subtle than that butalways just as striking.
The person so lavish with money who hires her turns out to be one of her major suspects. Nothing is quite as it seems from the word go. Edie’s chaotic home life keeps on intruding and turns out to be even more intrusive than Edie might have anticipated, making her a well-rounded character, as well as an amusing one. The missing cousin, Isabella, turns out to be even more mysterious than Edie at first suspected as her family appears to be just about impossible to track down. Just what this case is about becomes more mysterious as it goes on.
Edie’s charm, determination, and chutzpah carry the case and us forward to a gripping climax. This is well worth a read. The humour in the writer’s style makes page turning even easier as the novel goes on.
Purchasing links: UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/BOC23XYCKG/
Julie’s twitter: @JulieHighmore